A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Far Away…

It truly was a long time ago, some time in 1994 or 1995; the farway galaxy was CompuServe.  I had my whole electronic family on Prodigy (including a Wicked and E-VILE grandfather who was an ax murderer), but there was something compelling about CompuServe.  Nearly two decades later, I couldn’t tell you what it was that drew me in.

Warning: random digressions and parenthetical ramblings ahead.

I did (eventually) find a group of fantastically neat people in Section 17… in the Issues forum, I think.  They’d planted Teh Gayz in that somewhat out-of-the-way place, because LGBT folks… listen, I’m just making this up as I go along because I didn’t see the point of hiding the LGBT folks where they were hard to find (and I was LOOKING for them!)… but the story I’m making up is that they figured all we did was talk about sex, sex and more sex.  Oh!  And talk about the Gay Agenda and try to recruit impressionable young people to be Teh Gayz with us.  (That recruiting stuff?  Yeah, never worked.  There were straight folks in the forum, too, and I don’t think we managed to turn a single one of them Gayz.)

Yeah, well… except we didn’t.  Talk about sex, sex and more sex, I mean.  But lordy, the things we DID talk about!  Politics, obviously.  Coming out.  Dealing with friends, family members, lovers — and for some, themselves — who were HIV+ and LWA.  Having amiable discussions with people who disagreed with Teh Gayz Lifestyle…

Ok, sorry… had to take a break there, I was laughing so hard.  There were no amiable discussions with the right-wing fundamentalist dive-bombers.  You know the term “flame wars”?  Yeah.  That.  A lot of that.

But we talked about goofy things, too.

One goofy conversation (ongoing over a period of months) with a particular individual was about Star Trek.  Hey!  Queer people like Trek, too, and always have!  Nyah!  But one day, this particular individual happened to mention he played over in the RPGames forum, as the Captain of a Galaxy-class starship, no less.  I was somewhat intrigued, but really couldn’t get my head around the idea of roleplaying on a spaceship (D&D gal here, from way back), and especially had a hard time grasping the whole “message-based” gaming idea.  But said individual continued to nag me (yes, I said NAG!) to at least lurk his game.

Reluctantly, and with much eye rolling, I agreed.

After a few weeks, however, I realized it was actually starting to make some sort of sense.  I’ll admit I was lurking a few other ships in the online “fleet” known as Star Trek Ships (STS), and not all of them made sense.  (Hey, sorry guys… I know you’re going to ask, but I really don’t remember which ships they were.  And if your ship was going through a twisted and convoluted story line like we later did with Dan Woo, when then yes, I’m probably talking about you.)  So the next time this certain individual asked if I might be interested in joining his ship, I tentatively and hesitantly said yes.

As many of you know, that individual was none other than (cue angels’ choir) Rodney, and the ship was the USS Eclipse.  So the “tentative” part of my agreement was completely ignored, and before I even knew what the heck was going on, I found myself playing a young Irish lass from County Tipperary, Lieutenant Moira O’Shaughnessy, the new Holodeck Programmer/Technician for the Eclipse.

From that day forward, one of my favorite mantras as been, “Everything is Rodney’s fault.”

Why?  Well, for one thing, I met some of the nicest, smartest, most wonderful, most twisted and diabolical, most evil, and most FUN people I had ever met.  I also met the unbelievably talented guy I eventually married.  So yeah… all Rodney’s fault.

It didn’t take me long to get completely hooked on this message-based roleplaying game concept.  After all, back in high school, three of my buddies and I would pass spiral notebooks back and forth and write our collaborative fan fiction (oh, yes… definitely… most of it was Trek, but there was that M*A*S*H-Trek mashup thing that I will never forget).  The writing… the writing as a particular character… the writing in a group setting…  Yep, that was already in my blood.

Many things happened on the Eclipse, not all of them good (for the players, the characters or the game), though by the time CompuServe had its meltdown, my sweet little Irish lass was Captain of the Eclipse.  Wow.

Not only did many things happen on the Eclipse, but I created characters for other ships, too.

Agnes was the ship’s counselor on the ill-fated USS Odyssey.  (And Ken, darling… that was strike one; SG7 was strike two.  Just saying.)

Jasmine was the ship’s counselor on the USS Hawking.  (Good heavens, what a fun character!  On her own, she was ok, nothing spectacular… but she was from one of the ruling families of her planet in an arranged marriage to a guy she absolutely despised.  We sure did have fun with that, didn’t we, Ian?)

Rachel was the ship’s doctor for the Hellbound, a privateer.

I was in the process of putting together a tactical officer for the USS Renegade.

I had even put together a character for the world my then-fiance had created.  Yeah, I’d gone slumming among the Fantasy games.  That poor girl hadn’t even met all the members of the adventuring party before the fecal matter came into forceful contact with the rotating oscillator.

And then it all went to hell in a hand basket, as my dear old grandmother used to say.  Not just CompuServe, of course, for if you’ve read previous entries here, you’ll know late 2000 and early 2001 was not the best time in my life.

I still wrote, of course.  When you have that compulsion in your blood, it’s hard NOT to write.  But there was something missing.  I could never really put my finger on it, but writing just wasn’t as SATISFYING as it could have been.

And by gum, I missed my friends!

Life got better, I met other folks were are just as dear to me as those I’d left behind on CompuServe, but there was always that nagging voice in the back of mind whispering about one or another or a whole bunch of them.

Oh, I tried finding them… you betcha!  But even the mighty Google was no help.  Until…


Last spring or perhaps early summer, I’d plugged in an old external hard drive to see if there was anything on there I needed before tossing it in the electronic recycling bin.  I spent days, possibly weeks, reading through old files… remembering good times… tearing up over some of those passages.  And that THING in my heart that had been whispering and whimpering and whining and even wailing at times, “I want my people back” convinced me to give it another try.  ”Ask Google again,” the voices of all those long-lost characters nattered at me.  Not surprisingly, the voice nattering the loudest had a thick Irish brogue.

So I tried my usual search term — CompuServe RPGames STS — once more, not really expecting any better results than I’d had at any other point in the previous 11 years.  But this time… oh, my dear Lords and Ladies!  The second result the great and mighty Google served up was a link to Kalyr’s post about the demise of the RPGames forum, and it included copies of some posts from Nightshift, one of the Sysops.  I remember those posts.  I remember reading them the first time back in early 2000, I remember how they ripped my heart out as I sat there in my musty basement in despair, and there I was re-reading them… feeling all it all over again.  Damn you, Kalyr!  (But thank you, thank you, thank you!)

Then I got down to the bottom of the post.  And my heart almost exploded.  You know how the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day?  Well, that was nothing compared to how I felt when I read this:

Predicably all hell broke loose, and many a nasty word was said. People were called nasty names, like ‘George’. While some people kept their games on Compuserve’s GAMERS forum, and some other moved to the rival GSITE forum, one dedicated group including two former sysops moved heaven and earth and created a new free-standing forum in two weeks flat.

Two years later, Dreamlyrics goes from strength to strength. Beginning with a nucleus of RPGAMES members and games, including my own game KLR, the forum continues to recruit new member and recover old ones from the distant past.

I followed the link to DreamLyrics.

And I found my Tribe.

Today is my one year anniversary on DreamLyrics.  As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m crying a bit thinking how wonderful it is to have reconnected with those people I considered friends, to get to know folks I hadn’t known very well on CompuServe and to now call them friends, to meet new folks and make new friends.

I think the first thing I did when my account was established was respond to a slightly old post Art had regarding a Trek game he was thinking of starting.  Actually, I’m not sure if I was responding or if it was that Irish lass in my head yelling very, very loudly.  But if that O’Shaughnessy woman was going to be going anywhere, there were a couple of people she really wanted going with her… Emerald Drake and Donovan Kahallan.  So I immediately fetched two other ex-STS folks and ever-so-gently twisted their arms to sign up (they are now known as iRalph and Wolf, respectively).

Captain O’Shaughnessy commands the USS Clarke, whose mission is to return an alien ambassador to his home world.  Just reading that, you know things are not going to go well.  Still, the ship hasn’t been attacked by the Borg, by pirates, or by psionic energy-based aliens, so I consider that a point or three in the win column.  Plus, I’m writing and having fun!

Then my newest e-Sister, Pam, somehow corralled me in to co-moderating a collaborative writing experiment (it is not a game, and we are not evil GMs!), and I have a darling character there who is the eternally cheerful quartermaster for the Arist Guardsmen, Joni.

Not long after that, the unbelievably talented guy I married, Wolf, decided to begin another campaign on The Heartwood, so I resurrected that character from long, long ago that I barely remembered.  Of course, in the past seven or eight months Daxia Yurisdotter has gotten to be as loud as that Irish lass in my head.  But what do you expect from redheads, eh?

I brought Jasmine duBois and Falcon, my shapeshifter, over from CIS, along with Delia Shodi from FurryMuck for the short-lived Hitchhiker’s Bar and Grill.

I created a redheaded linguistic anthropologist, Lorraine Corcoran, for another short-lived game based on Stargate SG-1.  (Remember Ken, this is strike two.)

Nivek was kind enough (because I pestered him incessantly) to allow me to play a cat (named, appropriately, Cat) in his 1970s-era police drama game, as well as the precinct secretary, Evie Maloney (another redhead… are you sensing a theme here?).  Playing Cat, though… what a freakin’ blast!

I’ve brought back one of my original Trek characters, Ni-Sha, created when I was in high school, for Sam’s Red Shirt Blues game… a redheaded Vulcanoid (heh heh heh).

Also from the STS world, Doctor Rachel D’Konis (NOT a redhead… in fact, being half Deltan, she’s bald) has been on the faculty at the Miller-Levy Adjunct Training Campus for the past four years and will be heading back to Earth with the cadets of the current graduating class in Art’s latest game, Unknown Stars.

And to round out the voices in my head, there is the redheaded Healer Chumani, cleric of the Goddess Kia, in Dugan’s upcoming game, Great Island Adventure.

Of course, that’s not to mention all the NPCs (non-player characters, aka minor characters) that are in my head… Moira’s twin brother, Padraig; the Caitian engineer Timor and the sweet, quiet Hindu engineer Patel Jefferson; the extremely brilliant and terrified of Captain O’Shaughnessy programmer, Lou Erickson (named after a dear, dear friend); Rachel’s best friend and sometimes-lover, Tony.  And there are other voices that want their chance again to be heard.  (Ian,  buddy… Jehane is starting to get loud, and she isn’t even a redhead.)

In addition to writing, I recruit… and I do a far better job of recruiting new players for DreamLyrics that I ever did recruiting impressionable young people to be Gayz.  First, I pulled in Stealth, one of Wolf’s best pals.  ”Real life” (and just what is “real” anyway?) got in the way for a while, but there is writing to be done, and Stealth is just the one to do it!  (Dude, you can’t deny it; that is one complex and challenging character… and I know you would excel!)  Next, there was Mokie, a coworker with a sense of humor that rarely quits.  He’s playing our plucky comic relief Squire on The Heartwood, but don’t let the slightly bemused demeanor fool you… when Squire Dean decides something needs killing, he not only kills it, but hacks it into bite-sized pieces (not that anyone would want Eastern Hunting Beast stew).  And soon there will be Falco, another coworker who seems to be almost as giddy as I am about the writing.  He’ll be playing a Trill science officer on the Clarke.

Pam remarked several days or a week or some time ago as we were having a great time creating a back story for our characters in Great Island Adventure that we were writing so much it could probably turn out to be a novella.  And that got me thinking…  there’s really only one statistic the DreamLyrics system tracks, and that’s the number of posts a player has made… public in-character and out-of-character, in the game forums or the general discussion forums.  I started wondering about word counts… just for in-character posts (both public and private)… would I have written short stories or novellas for each of the games I have played or currently play?

I should disclose at this point that my nickname is Super OCD Woman.  So I went to town and did a word count of every in-character post, both public and private, that I made in the past year.  Here’s how the numbers break out (HBG has not been archived and is not available just yet; will add those numbers when the files become available… because I’m OCD that way, you know):

28 Precinct                    6,461
Clarke                       207,546
Great Island Adventure         5,003
The Heartwood                137,117
Hitchhikers Bar & Grill  no data yet
Red Shirt Blues                8,397
SG7                           12,084
Unknown Stars                  4,093
Wither the Wind Blows         16,255

Simply because I’m a geeky nerd and all of the above — with the exception of 28 Precinct — would be considered some sort of science fiction or fantasy story, I’m going to go with the page count guidelines from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Award Rules.

Short Story           < 7,500 words
Novelette      7,500 - 17,500 words
Novella       17,500 - 40,000 words
Novel                > 40,000 words

So, at the moment, Sis, we’re still at the short story stage for Chumani and Vrienne, but now that this particular bit of OCD has been completed… and some of the madness (and therefore stress) has died down at work… I’m confident we will have no problem reaching the novella category.

I wasn’t really surprised that I’d surpassed novel length in the Clarke and Heartwood games; what did surprise me was by how much I surpassed them.

I’ve ignored this blog, my word blog, for a long time.  I’m not going to promise any kind of regular posting here because… well, look at the voices in my head and notice how much a certain pair of redheads just LOVE to talk!  But I will try to get over here more often… maybe talk about what’s going on with aforementioned voices in my head.

Or other things… these days, you just never know.